Prison Diary: Fashion Statements, Part 1

Fashion reigns out at the prison.

It's a testimony to the human spirit how, even in the midst of enforced uniformity and drabness, we crave style and individuality. My wife sees this every week with the way her students play on the edges of the school dress code and uniform. And it's the same out at the prison.

But it's a little harder in a prison. The men are given a smock-like top and pants with an elastic waistband. The material is all white, a thick cotton fabric, like denim. The uniform is pictured here.

So how do you create fashion out of that blandness?

The first thing you have to do is control you clothing.

Generally, you're supposed to exchange your dirty clothing each week for clothing laundered in laundry. It's all handed out by size, so you never keep the same shirt or pants. So the first thing you have to do to control your clothing is not hand it over during laundry collection.

So you keep your shirt and pants. You now control them, but you'll need to have them laundered and given back to you. This is where someone with a laundry hustle comes in.

To get your clothing laundered you pay a guy working in the laundry. You give him your clothing. He puts your clothing on when he goes to work. At work he washes your clothing, puts it back on, returns to the block, and gives it back to you. All clean.

The point of all this is to keep and control your shirt and pants. If you can't do this, any changes you make to the shirt and pants are lost in the laundry collection, turned in and handed out to someone else.

But if you can control your clothing you can start thinking about fashion.

I'll get to that next week.

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